Recently it had become time to leave a job at a company I had worked at for many years. It wasn’t a difficult decision either – the overall culture of the workplace had shifted dramatically in recent years, and unfortunately, in my humble opinion, not for the better. What had been novel and exciting in the beginning had come to feel more like drudgery and discouragement in the end.
Should I have left sooner? Possibly – if I had known what signs to look for. One thing that many of us (hopefully!) improve at as we get older is learning to “look for the signs” and spot trends as they’re happening. Unfortunately, there are other times when we’re so immersed in an environment (work or otherwise) that it’s hard to see what’ss happening in front of our very eyes. Or if we do see it, we try to come up with some story to explain it away.
Recognizing the Signs
One reason I didn’t leave the company for so long was that I was neither happy nor miserable. How does that work? People who are happy in their employment, who feel valued for what they do and who believe their efforts are being recognized, as well as growing and expanding their skill sets, have no need to change course.
Conversely, people who are miserable in their jobs will seek to get out of an awful situation as soon as possible.
Interestingly, and somewhat ironically, it’s the people who are in between those two ends of the “job satisfaction” spectrum who are the most likely to fall into a trap. They’re not happy enough in their jobs to feel good about where they are, but they’re not unhappy enough to take action to correct or alter their situation.
It’s during these times that we become more likely to “coast” and “shift into autopilot”. We don’t feel that acute sense of urgency that maybe something in our lives need to change.
How do we know when it’s time leave a job? First, let’s consider the ways the company you’re working for may be in trouble. Along with personal insights, other authors around the web have pointed out a number of factors that might be indicative that the organization you’re working for might be in for a very rough ride, if it isn’t already in one now.
Management Stops Talking, or Even Disappears Behind Closed Doors
I can’t emphasize this enough: good managers communicate regularly and honestly with their employees. It’s amazing how often this doesn’t seem to happen.
At my old company, leadership would often go for long stretches without telling employees what was happening within the organization. This opened the field up to all kinds of gossip, rumors, and speculations about what was really going on. Whether rumors are true or not, they can cause major damage to the morale of a workplace. It may also be indicative that the leadership doesn’t WANT their employees to know of the difficulties going on behind the scenes.
When it’s Time to Leave a Job: Managers Become Micro-managers
I’ll be honest – if I had a chance to work in an environment outside the typical 9-5 work hours, I would usually take it. I would regularly joke to my fellow employees that I enjoyed working “after-hours,” since that’s when all the company higher-ups would go home and stop mucking around in other people’s business, and the rest of us could actually get some work done!
That’s not always the case, but if you have a boss who wants you to exhaustively document every single little thing you do, or expects you to be available 24/7, even on days off and vacations, think carefully about how much of your life you want to sign away to your superiors.
Employee Favoritism is Rampant
Ever feel like some of your co-workers could get away with murder if they tried?
We all want to believe that we’re held to the same standards as our peers – after all, that’s what “being fair” is all about, isn’t it? Yet, many times, that is not the case. There are many workplaces where certain employees are allowed to come in late repeatedly, leave early, call off regularly from work, spend most of their workday doing things other than work, find creative ways of dodging responsibilities, and getting special privileges over others who are more deserving of merit.
Meanwhile, other employees are expected to pick up the slack, stay late when needed, put in extra-long grueling hours, receive little recognition for their efforts, and are subject to frequent criticism while they try to do their best to hold things together.
This is definitely not a recipe for a healthy work environment. It almost always leads to high levels of anger and resentment. As another article I read put it, when employees in a company spend a lot of time talking about “us” vs. “them” – and they are NOT referring to their competitors – you might want to think about brushing up your resume.
This may or may not be cause for alarm, depending on the situation. Back during the financial crisis of 2008-2010, it was pretty uncommon to find organizations that WEREN’T going through a hiring or pay freeze. But if you’re working in a place where these things are starting to become an annual ritual, you may want to sit up and take notice.
There’s a good chance your company is going through major budgetary issues and is having difficulty meeting payroll expenses. Since payroll is usually the biggest expense for a company, it’s the most likely target for cuts.
Less and Less Work is Coming Your Way
At my old workplace, we used to joke that it was “either feast or famine.” We would have occasional “dry spells” where there was little work, but most of the time the harvests were plenty – plenty of work for everyone and opportunities for overtime. As the years wore on, however, the feasts became fewer and famine became the new state of normal.
If your employer finds out they can get along just fine without your input and effort, you should consider finding an escape route as soon as possible, lest you’re the one to be next on the chopping block.
Even if your company is not in trouble, there may be more personal signs that it may be time for you to move on, and soon:
You Go into Monday Morning Feeling Bored, or Even Worse – Feeling Dread
If you’re heading into work with a knot in your stomach, ask yourself if the toll it is taking on your mental and possible physical health is really worth it. Remember, life is too short to be spending so much of it with people and environments that make you miserable!
Your Company No Longer Believes in You or Invests in You
Good organizations recognize the talents, strengths, and potentials of their workers. If you don’t feel like you’re growing with the organization you’re currently with, why not find someone else who will invest in you?
I’ve heard it said that if you’re with a company for more than five years and there’s been no change in your roles or job duties, you’re probably in a dead-end job. Another option to consider — as Kevin and others here at OOYR have noted — why not also consider the option of becoming self-employed and invest in yourself instead?
Your Values, Mission, and Priorities Don’t Mesh Well with the Employer
Few things will create resentment in you faster than if you see your employer going in a direction that is totally at odds with what you value and believe. If you’re more focused on providing good service and quality while your employer emphasizes “the bottom line” – even if it means cutting back on service and quality – consider the possibility that you and your employer are moving in opposite directions and you’re not likely to retain compatibility with each other for long.
You Don’t Feel Like What You’re Doing is Making Any Difference
How many of you can recognize the symptoms of “burnout” in someone? We all want to feel that we’re making a positive impact on our world. If your current work situation feels akin to “going through the motions,” don’t you think you owe it to yourself to find something (or things) that you really care about?
Wouldn’t you rather focus on your personal legacy than just focusing on getting through the day? It’s probably asking too much for us to be overflowing with excitement every work day, but we should aspire to “take the long view” in our work and realize that we should we doing something meaningful with our lives.
What about you, dear readers? What other situations made you realize it was time to go? Share your stories with us!